Stories from the Field: Necessary Angels

0014Within the public health community, Community-Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) is a common point of discussion. But rarely has the story been told by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author or captured in pictures for the National Geographic Magazine. The December 2008 edition shared with the world the story of The Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in Jamkhed, India. “Necessary Angels” was the fitting title to a story of history and hope for village health workers who have healed communities, saved lives and transformed the place of the untouchable caste in the process.

 The Comprehensive Rural Health Project, Jamkhed was created by Dr’s Mabelle and Rajanikant (Raj) S. Arole. Graduating top in their class in medical school, they continued their studies in public health at Johns Hopkins University. It is there as students, they met their mentor and lifelong friend, Dr. Carl Taylor. In 1970 they returned to the state of Maharashtra in Western India, and began to transform health care at the community level.

 Over 39 years later, CRHP is still going strong and its fundamental principles have been used within the Indian Government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). CRHP has trained over 100,000 community health and development (grassroots) workers and receives 2,000 trainees per year from NGOs, Indian government agencies and 100 other countries. Although Dr. Mabelle Arole passed away in 1999, her spirit lives on as a central part of the organization and in the fundamentals of CRHP work. Their daughter, Dr. Shobha Arole is the Associate Director of CRHP and is board president of Oikocredit, an international microfinance NGO. Their efforts have earned Dr. Raj Arole and Dr. Shobha Arole recognition as Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs.

 You can learn more from Dr. Raj and Mabelle Arole’s 1994 book Jamkhed: A  Comprehensive Rural Health Projectand in Carl Taylor and Daniel Talyor-Ide’s book Just and Lasting Change . You can read the National Geographic article “Necessary Angels” and watch the related video on-line by following the hyperlinks provided. Photographs by Lynn Johnson.

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